As COVID-19 forced meatpacking facilities to shut down and slow down in May, beef exports dropped below last year’s levels and pork exports were at their lowest level since October, according to data collected by the United States Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

"As protective measures related to COVID-19 were being implemented, plant disruptions peaked in early May with a corresponding temporary slowdown in exports," USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom said in a release. "Unfortunately the impact was quite severe, especially on the beef side."

Beef exports for the month fell 33% from last year to 79,280 metric tons, while pork exports were up 12% from a year ago at 243,823 metric tons, but were still the lowest since October. The U.S. is exporting more pork to China/Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam this year, while exports to Mexico, Japan, Canada and South Korea were lower.

Halstrom noted that production levels have risen, which he says should help exports “regain momentum” in the second half of the year.

“In what has been a remarkably turbulent year, consumer demand for U.S. red meat has proven very resilient,” Halstrom said. “Now that production has substantially recovered, the U.S. industry is better able to meet the needs of both domestic and international customers."

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